Sunday, May 23, 2004

Egyptian experience
Jaswant Singh

The Sphinx, with the body of a lion and the head of a pharaoh.
The Sphinx, with the body of a lion and the head of a pharaoh. — Photo by the writer

FIVE thousand years ago Giza, situated on Nile’s west bank, became the royal necropolis, or burial place, for Memphis, the capital city of the pharaoh. Today, Giza is a suburb of rapidly growing Cairo, the largest city in Africa and the fifth largest in the world.

We were staying in Hotel Safir, a five star complex in Giza, Cairo, where pyramids are situated. Egyptian Pyramids, one of the Seven Wonders of the world. About 2550 BC, king Khufu, the second pharaoh of the fourth dynasty, commissioned the building of his tomb at Giza. Some Egyptologists believe it took 10 years just to build the ramp that leads from the Nile valley floor to the pyramid and 20 years to construct the pyramid itself. Many
Egpytologists agree the stones were hauled up ramps using ropes of papyrus twine. Khufu’s son, Khafre, who was next in the royal line, commissioned the building of his own pyramid complex which includes the Sphinx. Menkaure, who is believed to be Khafre’s son, built the third and smallest of the three pyramids at Giza. Each pyramid has a mortuary temple and a valley temple linked by long causeways.

The Nile was used to transport supplies and building materials.

The outer casing stones have disappeared from all three pyramids except the very top of Khafre’s. Precious white limestone was torn away from the faces of the pyramids and used in the construction of buildings in Cairo. Limestone was quarried from the Giza pyramids for the construction of buildings in Cairo. Giza’s pyramids are oriented to face the four cardinal directions: true North, South, East and West.
The temples of the pyramids are on the eastern side.

The first Pyramid was built by King Khufu, the son of King Sneferu and Queen Hetpeheres. He was the one to initiate pyramid building at Giza. The base of the pyramid is 13 square acres, average weight of individual blocks of stone 2.5 tonne, height 449 feet and the construction material was limestone, granite. The second Pyramid was built by King Khafre the son of Khufu. He was responsible for the second-largest pyramid complex at Giza, which includes the Sphinx, a Mortuary Temple, and a Valley Temple. Khafre may be best known for his statues and most famous among them is the Sphinx.The third Pyramid: Menkaure the grandson of is credited with making the third pyramid, the smallest of the three at Giza.

The Sphinx: Made by King Khafre, who also made the second pyramid, the Sphinx has the body of a lion and the head of a Pharaoh i.e. Khafre. Carved from the natural limestone of Giza, the Sphinx has disintegrated over the years. Its width is 20 feet, the total height 66 feet and 30 feet height from chin to head. The construction material is soft limestone.

A visit to these pyramids was exciting, entertaining, informative and a fulfilment of a childhood dream.